How can I say that when shooting is the most interesting thing for me to think about? Shooting, especially rifle shooting, pretty much is the focus of my extra time, money, and energy. So what the heck am I talking about?
Since the contextual background of my interest in shooting is applied shooting, or shooting as it’s useful in the field, the parameters are different from an approach that places shooting as an end in itself. If shooting is simply a means to an end, and probably not the only tool in the toolbox, how does that change the way it should be approached?
The entirety of the ‘thing’ should be as low profile as is practicable while retaining the capability to get the job done. This includes the primary equipment, ancillary equipment, and the mental processes used to get the bullet on target. These are all related. If the equipment is excessively complex, it will essentially require more “computing power” from your mental processing. If you have too much gear or if it’s heavier than necessary, it’s going to increase your consumption of energy over the long haul. If getting a bullet on target involves solving equations and performing pagan rituals, it might be too complicated. If gear or technique is taking you out of the fight or out of the hunt, it’s minimizing your overall effectiveness.
As an example of this point, I have some nice gear and a nice pack to put it in. Even then, I have to take some extra precautions because a.) I am a master at losing things that are expensive and/or difficult to replace, b.) if I have space, I will fill it up (I over pack), c.) I tend to move in a way that is hard on me and the things I carry, and d.) things get snagged up on stuff. Those things mean that unless I have a plan for each of those issues in relation to my gear I will be distracted and may not end up with all the things that I started with. Being distracted slows things down and takes attention from the task. Not having gear, or finding that it’s damaged compromises performance to a level below expectations.
For me, carrying too much creates a lot of work with little to no benefit. For the things I do carry I have to have a system and stick to it. The point is that the work drives the gear. The gear shouldn’t be adding to the work.
Complexity can be cool, fun, and interesting. Many of us are wired to take pleasure in working out complex problems. We probably have too much free time or are too insulated from the real world, but we have the luxury to do what we want, usually without serious consequences.
In approaching a practical situation out in the world we often find that our lack of control removes the luxuries that make a complicated solution viable. Specifically this relates to how many pieces of gear can one access, or how many variables can one account for under poor conditions, physical exertion, and mental stress. Under these circumstances the nature of our reality can drastically change.
Doing some work at very close range with the AR has been a good experience for me. In particular, the issue of dealing with mechanical offset has been a great illustration of how it’s so easy to over-complicate something when thinking it through conceptually or intellectually. Being a person who values precision, I like the idea a point of aim that is deliberate and as correct as possible for a given range. At least I was smart enough to know not to dial my elevation at 7 yards (that’s saying a lot for me).
When I thought through the problem of point of aim and mechanical offset conceptually, I thought that a reticle-based holdover would provide the best combination of speed and precision. Using the reticle in this manner comparatively fast from the perspective of a bolt action rifle shooter. To be clear about what I mean, I was considering using a different aiming point than the crosshair intersection. For instance, if I was at a distance close enough to require a correction of 13 mils, for example, I was going to place that part of the reticle, or somewhere relatively near that part of the reticle if time was a factor, on the part of the target I wanted to hit.
The other alternative in using a holdover would be to hold the crosshair (or whatever the optic has as an aiming point) a certain distance above the target (Tennessee elevation). I didn’t like this option because of the likelihood of varying size targets and a comparatively imprecise “zone of impact” based on a point of aim that seems to be characterized as “aim ’bout there”.
What I discovered once I actually had a loaded rifle in my hand, a target in front of me, and a timer keeping track was that using the reticle to adjust the hold was extremely slow. The target as close range is also comparatively huge. 4.2” is approximately 60 MOA or 16.6 mils at 7 yards. Those things taken together indicate what I found out in about 10 seconds on the range, to wit, it just makes a lot more sense to figure out where to put the crosshairs in relation to the target instead of using the reticle to hold. For instance, at 7 yards, depending on the height of the scope mount, a might need to hold anywhere from the top edge of my 4.2” target, to just a little above that. Out to 25 yards I need to hold about halfway between the center and top of the target. With enough trigger time at various close ranges, it’s not to hard to develop the ability to guess a point of aim that will get the bullets into the target. I believe that this is a skill that will transfer to targets of different sizes, because it’s not too hard to estimate the mechanical offset at those ranges.
This didn’t only affect my technique at close range. It also indicates to me that a complex reticle for close range work is not only unnecessary, but probably going to create visual noise in the workspace. After getting used to (spoiled with?) the simple single dot illumination in the SR-8c and the Swarovski Z6i, reticles with an abundance of visual “features” seem like too much stuff in the way. For example, the EOTech that I’ve been using for many years now feels like I have a neon sign between me and the target.
Without a purpose to drive our gear and technique it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting what seems cool or novel affect those things in negative ways. Sometimes what sounds good in theory just doesn’t work out that way. The test should be in the field.